Yesterday I experienced a very frustrating customer service situation. I know at various points in time we have all encountered customer service challenges, but for me this particular situation rises above all others that I've dealt with in terms of just how infuriating it was.
In fact, it was so bad that I perceived that the customer service representative that I was dealing with was accusing me of being dishonest and questioning my integrity. (I should note that honesty and integrity are both of highest importance to me.) Further, the service to be provided from the organization in question was not a service that I could reasonably obtain from another source, so my hands were somewhat tied in terms of actions that I could take.
As is often the case with me, this situation led me to think about customer service in general, both the positive customer service encounters I have had as well as some of the more negative customer service encounters that I have dealt with. It also got me to thinking about customer service from an internal audit perspective. If internal auditors think about those in the organization with whom we work as our customers, including both our audit clients and other stakeholders within the organization, then we should approach our interactions with them with a customer service focus.
Of course, in doing so, we must keep The IIA's Code of Ethics and
Standards in mind, including approaching our work with integrity, objectivity, and due professional care. Beyond that, though, I recommend thinking about our encounters with our customers in terms of demonstrating basic respect for others, mixed with self-accountability on our parts to do what we say we are going to do when we say we are going to do it. Some things to consider in this regard include:
- Being professional and courteous in our communications.
- Actually doing the things that we say we are going to do, within the timeframe and deadlines to which we have committed.
- Providing proactive communication to our customers with explanations in those situations in which we are unable to meet the deadlines that have been communicated, as well as promptly establishing new deadlines.
- Communicating honestly, but with tact.
- Not unnecessarily delaying the difficult conversations.
- Thinking about the other person's point of view.
- Being accountable for our actions and responses.
Let's face it — while we have made strides as a profession in positioning ourselves as valued advisors and partners within our businesses, there are still those who see us as the "gotcha auditors" or a necessary evil. To begin overcoming these stereotypes, we must deliver both quality and value-added work based on the key risks to our organizations, while developing trusting relationships with those within the organization (our customers). This includes being cognizant of the impact that our dealings and our communications can have on those with whom we interact.
As we continue to advocate for and focus on advancing the internal audit profession, let's do it with a customer service focus in mind. I also encourage you to think about some of the most positive customer service encounters that you've had with the organizations with which you do business. Are there any ways you can replicate those interactions in your relationships with your audit clients and key stakeholders within your organization?